Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Date: Friday June 19 to Sunday June 22
Day 18 to 21
Quote of the day: "Amanda! Amanda!" - The children :)....there are now quite a few of very young children who have replaced "Mazungu" with my name which makes me smile. We will be walking down the street and young children who I barely recognize will be yelling my name.

On Friday June 19th I reflected on my experiences so far and I realized that my life has truly been impacted. The people I have met, the things I have seen, the places I have been, and the life I have lived here are so different than I had ever imagined. In my opinion the most difficult part of life in Kenya, and Oyugis in particular, is the lack of opportunities available to the children. There are some people who have the opportunity to get a good education, they work hard to overcome challenges, and they live a happy successful life. However, some children in Kenya will never have the opportunities that are available to us which we take for granted every day.

I have been reading the novel Outliers - The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell where I have found many things relating to Oyugis in many ways. Here is a perfect representation of the children in Oyugis: A sociologist Annette Lareuau conducted a study where she found "Poor parents tend to follow a strategy of 'accomplishment of natural growth'. They see as their responsibility to care for their children but to let them grow and develop on their own....The poorer children were, to her mind, often better behaved, less whiny, more creative in making use of their own time, and had a well-developed sense of independence."

Returning to the primary school again on Friday we listened to the teachers speak about the lack of funding for facilities, supplies, and sports equipment for the children. As well they told us of the many children who are orphans from HIV/AIDS victims and the challenges children face inside and outside the classroom. Many children struggle to complete their homework due to the lack of light in their home or emotional problems after the death of a sibling or parent.

Respect and authority are generally still based on age and gender. The majority of our free time is spent playing with the children which is my favourite thing to do. The older boys believe that they have authority over the other children and get to do whatever they want. I feel accomplished when we teach the children some discipline when it comes to the soccer ball and skipping ropes that we bring out. One afternoon we switched it up so that the girls played with the soccer ball while the boys used the skipping rope. Many of the boys continually asked me for the ball saying that the girls weren't any good at soccer...but since it is my ball I told them it was the girls turn and they listened. By the way, the only reason the girls may not be very good is that they never get time with the ball to practice!

The Project:
• Our project work is almost ALWAYS delayed as problems continually arise and must be dealt with immediately. Many simple tasks require the project coordinator due to language barriers, cultural differences, and inaccurate or missing information which is very difficult especially when Roy is required to make last minute trips to Kisumu or Kisii.
• Communication between stakeholders is one of the most challenging aspects of the project. Cell phones are very common however it is a pay-as-you-go system and many of the stakeholders demand to be financially compensated for telephone expenses related to the project. E.g. The chairlady of The Orande Women's Group contacting 20 women to inform them of a necessary 3 day training session which they must attend.
○ Keep in mind, in the Oyugis-Rachuonyo region many people are struggling every day to provide food for their families and cannot afford these additional expenses for a project that they are volunteering for.
• Recent problems:
○ The water tank in the kitchen fell over and broke...we are still not sure how this happened. We need to submit a proposal to receive funding for a new one which will take over 2 weeks to get the funds to purchase the new tank.
○ The training by the Mwanza Yoghurt Mamas is delayed by 1 week.
• I am thrilled to be working with my peers Jen and Rani. It is so much easier to work cooperatively and efficiently with people that you are sharing such an intense experience with.

Most Memorable Moments:
• Everlyn, our 10-yr old neighbour, inviting me over for Tea and tomatoes
• Watching a high school soccer game with thousands of other people crowded along the sidelines of the field.
○ Shaking hands with over 30 guys from 1 high school who wanted to meet was pretty ridiculous.
○ The girls team playing in just bare feet (no shinpads, no shoes, no socks)
○ Our friends asking us if we want to sit in the shade and a random girl asking "how are you affected by this weather?"→ we found out that everyone thinks white people can't be in the sun. This all happened about an hour before I got a little bit of a burn.
• Our soccer games every night! I am getting such an intense workout and every time I slip in cow poo I think of the children who aren't wearing any shoes on the field.
• Climbing up a ladder on the 4th floor of our hotel to a ledge where the water tanks sit. This is probably one of the highest points in Oyugis so we had an amazing view while dangling our feet over the edge and children yelling up at us "Mazungu! Mazungu" or some of them "Amanda! Amanda!"
• Playing cards with our new friends and the hotel staff. They call the clubs suit "flowers".
• SKIPPING! Again I counted out loud for a group of young boys (about age 4 to 10) the # of jumps they completed in a row. After a while they wanted me to count in Luo ...which got pretty difficult because I only know how to count up to 10. Whenever I made a mistake or my pronunciation was wrong these young boys, who are usually the bad kids misbehaving all the time, would burst out laughing and some of them fell down on the ground after laughing so hard. It was hilarious...and I loved being able to make them laugh, even if they were laughing at me :)

Life in Kenya:
• It is extremely difficult to try and stop kids from pushing, shoving, and hitting each other all the time (especially when in line for skipping). These kids never have any adult supervision and after I tried to stop the kids from pushing in line I noticed a mother approach her child and hit him with a stick to get up and go home.
• Mazungus→ something else Kenyans love about us is touching our skin and hair...they are curious and think it is so different.

*With love from Oyugis, Kenya
Amondi (my African name) or
Emelda (what a lot of people think my name is)

1 comment:

  1. am not much of a novel person but when you g et to read next to me , i will def pick up a novel and get reading. I write alot so...come on, stop with all these 'serious' stuff and post how i lose at cards and stuff, and pics of us together...they can make your blog look more cool, its looks like some NASA blog where they post research stuff and no pictures...get cooler stories and next time you check your blog i will have 30 comments for you and jammed traffic to your blog..xoxoxo